Burning garbage to make energy--on its face, anyhow--seems like a win-win proposition, but the chemical arithmetic has never really added up to a winning proposition. Nonetheless, a major energy supplier and a big time trash hauler are both finding value in Montreal-based Enerkem.
Four Loko—that high-octane alcohol- and caffeine-fueled malt beverage that drew the ire of federal authorities late last year—has found a new and appropriate role in the energy cycle: automotive fuel. A Virginia ethanol recycler is taking shipments of the product, which has been pulled from store shelves in several states, and recycling it into ethanol for use in gasoline.
Tiny organisms such as algae offer great promise for a clean energy future by creating biofuels or even hydrogen, if only scientists can figure out how to use them in a cost-efficient way. A startup named Joule Unlimited has hit upon a possible solution, with a genetically tailored organism that sweats out its fuel and lives on to continue making more, New York Times reports. The company broke ground recently on a Texas pilot plant that will house the single-cell plant organisms in flat structures resembling solar panels facing the sun.
They don't exactly look like the saviors of our energy economy, but that's exactly what some researchers think they could be. Gribbles -- tiny crustacean pests with a knack for digesting wood -- have long been considered a marine parasite for the destruction they cause to wooden hulls and piers. But the enzymes gribbles use in to break wood fibers down into sugars could make them the next biofuels breakthrough.
Producing a biofuel cheap enough to compete at the pump with oil has remained as elusive as a ghost on the walls of Elsinore castle. But this week, two Danish companies announced they had developed enzymes capable of breaking down cellulose into ethanol cheaply enough to produce $2-a-gallon gas.
If you're of the mind that consuming natural resources for anything but the basic needs of civilization – sustenance and the like – is irredeemably decadent, log off now and go aerate a compost heap or dig a well for a needy village. The Bentley Continental GT Supersports is definitely not your bag of soy.
On the other hand, if you think it possible – by way of octane-rich biofuel – to reconcile massive, brain-pan-sloshing displays of horsepower and torque with a reduction in carbon emissions while keeping a straight face, then by all means read on.
Scientists have repeatedly touted the possibility of turning algae into biofuels. Now a Florida-based company called Algenol is working with Dow Labs in Texas to convert carbon dioxide produced by algae farms into ethanol, which will then be used to make plastics. Even better, the oxygen byproduct left over from the conversion can be used to produce cleaner, more efficient coal power.